A quarter of a million acres of Oregon state forest will see more logging, and less protected habitat, under plans approved this week.
The state forester says the plan is a “modest” shift from conservation toward timber revenue. But environmental groups dislike the plan. And federal officials have their eye on Oregon’s coastal forests, too.
A year and a half ago, the Oregon Board of Forestry called for new state forest plans that would yield up to 15 percent more timber revenue. The increase would be a boon to North Coast counties that benefit financially when timber is sold off the Clatsop and Tillamook forests.
State forester Doug Decker has approved plans covering close to half that state forestland in the coast range. The plans step up logging, gradually.
“I had that guidance from the board to increase revenues over the next ten years. So we’ve taken a first step and there will be about a five percent increase in harvest levels on the Astoria and Forest Grove District during this deferral period.”
Decker says this “deferral period” will give the forestry board a chance to review plans and policies – including how to measure success.
Environmentalists don’t see the makings of a successful plan.
Bob Van Dyk with the Wild Salmon Center raised objections during a recent tour of the Astoria District of the Clatsop State Forest. Van Dyk doesn’t like the shift toward logging.
“It’s really that overall trend, combined with rejection of federal, federally-approved habitat conservation strategies that cause us concern.”
Van Dyk is talking there about salmon strategies. But on the recent tour, he questioned deputy chief forester, Mike Cafferata, about the overall federal role in the latest timber plan.
“Did the federal scientists review this change of plan, at all? Was there any federal participation?” Van Dyk asked.
“No. Not on this part of our plan. We work with them a lot on take avoidance, and sharing all of our operations and our surveys, but I don’t think we asked them to weigh in on our policy here,” Cafferata replied.
Since that tour, the US Fish and Wildlife Service published a final recovery plan for the iconic forest bird, the Northern Spotted Owl. The plan calls on state forest managers to conserve the best owl habitat.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Janet Lebson says the feds haven’t reviewed the new state forest plans. But she says since the state of Oregon – not the federal government – owns much of the land in the north Coast Range, the feds want the state to help.
“That is an area that we’ve identified in the spotted owl recovery plan, where we would like to work more with the Oregon Department of Forestry to see if there are some conservation measures we can take, to fill in some of the gaps, there.”
State forester, Doug Decker, says the federal recovery plan and the state forest plans are entirely different. But he says he doesn’t see a conflict between the state’s plans – which prioritize logging – and the federal goals to conserve forestland for the spotted owl.